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Should You Improve Your Own Home?

Most of us love our homes, but there’s always something we’d like to change. Maybe it’s a new addition, renovating a kitchen, or simply giving a room a makeover. There are always two big stumbling blocks: what will it cost, and who is going to do the work?

Handling your own home projects can be satisfying, but it’s not always the smartest approach. Before you decide to tackle a project, you need to ask yourself two questions. First, do you have the knowledge and skills to handle the job? Be honest about your own abilities, because even people who are good at home projects can encounter unexpected problems. 

The second question is do you really have the time to handle the work? Household projects nearly always take longer than expected, and trying to fit them around your job and other responsibilities can be tough. A kitchen makeover that “should” take a week can easily become a month-long ordeal – and you’ll be without your kitchen for much of that time.

If you’ve decided that it makes more sense to get outside help, your next step is finding a professional contractor. First, develop a complete understanding of what you want. If you take the time to think your plans through – even picking out materials and making rough sketches – both you and the contractor will have a better idea of what to expect.

Friends are a good source of contractor recommendations, as are local hardware and building supply stores. It’s best to meet with at least three contractors. They should be willing to come to your home and provide a written estimate. If they quote a number over the phone or won’t take the time to discuss the job with you, they’re probably not a good choice.

Compare the estimates to make sure they include everything you discussed, and call the contractor if anything is missing or unclear. Then choose the contractor with whom you’re most comfortable. It may not be the cheapest one, but if you feel better about working with one who is slightly more expensive, you’ll probably be happier with the job.

One last piece of advice: don’t pay in full until the job is completely done. Most contractors will accept a down payment and progress payments, but you should never hand over the final payment until everything meets with your approval.

Posted: 8/30/2011 with 1 comments

Categories: Homeownership

Elen Sia
My husband and I have a very simple plan for home improvement: we do one big project a year and decide very early on what that project will be, so we can organize and plan our finances appropriately. Two years ago it was replacing the awful blue carpet in our living room. Last year we replaced the gutters, soffit and fascia. We took a break this year because we were fully engaged in the SaveItUp Challenge. Our project next year will be to replace the backyard fence and we already got an estimate so we have a clear idea what the cost will be.
10/31/2011 8:20:08 AM

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